Dwelling for an hour and a half on the mystery of reality, guided by a teacher who carries the thought to its’ extremes. To be, or nothingness. The entity, or the ‘non-entity.’ Becoming, or the eternal. A few hundred fascinated people followed the elevated reasoning of philosopher Emanuele Severino who came from Brescia for the first ‘Lecture of Sophia’ of 2013: ‘On the Meaning of Truth.’
A cordial relationship was established from the very first moments – where intelligence moves the heart – between the thinker and those present at the dissertation in Loppiano’s Auditorium, so that the deep listening encountered incited the 84 year old philosopher to share the intellectual walk of a life more than to offer a lectio magistralis.
Warmly introduced by his friend Piero Coda, rector of the IUS, Severino gives, with admirable style, his thought on the eternity of being and on the becoming of reality. In the hall one listened to the breath of philosophy. We were involved in an interior dialogue that gathered the happenings of each one around the essential question on truth, which said philosophy of our time seems to want to escape from.
It is an all-round reflection on the results of western civilization. For Severino it is not the becoming, but eternity which sustains the world. The becoming is fearful: ‘The happier we are, the more we fear losing happiness’, he explains. The philosopher finds that the known Greek expression that marks the beginning of philosophy – thauma, conventionally translated with the idea of marvel - in reality should be understood in another way, as anguish of the unknown, as fear of suffering and death.
He clarifies by saying that the errror began with Greek philosophy in the moment in which it no longer negated the non-being and created space for becoming. From that moment, the western world, in order to protect itself from the ‘horror’ of becoming, seeks a remedy. For Severino, even Christianity is a life attempted by humanity towards certain knowledge, as is taking refuge in science and technology on the part of human civilizations.
To think that reality is a constant becoming, a ‘becoming something other’ is folly, he asserts, an error that brings one to conceive of death as an annihilation. For the Brescian philosopher we are not ‘a becoming something other.’ We are eternal, destined to a return; we are beyond life from the very beginning. These reflections, given by an amiable and distinguished philosopher, shake and provoke the same philosophy, science and technology, the market and politics, the god of theologies. It is a philosophy that invites to a dialogue. A philosophy that, one could say, meets naturally with that sophia to which this same University Institute is guest: a place ‘intelligently Catholic,’ as Severino defines it almost nonchalantly. After all, what is wisdom – he comments, revealing the etimological meaning of the word sophia – if not clearest light?
We have experienced the ‘joy of meeting,’ as Piero Coda said in bringing the evening to a close. It will be useful to meet again, to explore the beauty of thinking together, to enter into the words that the experience of the sophia –and of Sophia – suggests, while facing the most ardent questions of yesterday and of today. Emanuele Severino has promised he will return to Loppiano, to continue the conversation just begun.
Text: Michel Bronzwaer